Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

ing out a line for the Pacific railroad. The force of these objections is not seen by the committee. If the telegraph is to await the construction of the railroad, it is evident that its completion must be postponed for some years, even if the latter be cominenced immediately, while two years will suffice for the construction of the former. The plan of the memorialists cannot mark out the route for a railroad, or influence the decision of that question, for the reason that the straightest practicable line between the termini is the most desirable. It would cross mountains, valleys, and rivers, in directions utterly unsuitable and impracticable for the route of a railroad ; its location would be controlled by other considerations than those of grades, bridges, excavations, and embankments, which must enter so largely into the location of the former.

Connect the Atlantic and Pacific coasts by telegraph communication, and the impulse which it will give to business, and that great tide of emigration setting towards California, will add to the necessity for railroad communication. In this instance, the telegraph should precede the railway.

The bill provides that the telegraph line shall be completed within two years from its passage, and after such State legislation shall have been secured as may be necessary to authorize its construction in the States through which it may pass. The parties having had much experience in similar undertakings, have full confidence in their success and their ability to complete the work within the time specified. The benefits, therefore, which will accrue from this measure, are not to be postponed to an indefinite future; they are close at hand and within our immediate grasp.

The line is to be consiructed in the most permanent manner, with two independent conductors, placed under ground, where they will be exempt from all the causes which operate to prevent the efficiency and reliability of lines constructed in the ordinary way. The wires are to be so completely protected by the insulating material, itself imperishable, that they will not corrode; and, being securely placed in the earth, no accidental breaking can occur. The electrical state of the atmosphere, or the most violent storms, can have no effect to interrupt the working of lines thus laid down. The plan proposed also includes the location of testing-tubes at intervals of five miles, and working stations at average distances of one hundred miles. Under such arrangements, should the line from any cause be interrupted, it could be speedily repaired. The parties are entirely confident that they will be able to work the line at all times as readily as air-lines are operated in the most favorable weather, and consequently that they can always transmit despatches directly through. This mode of construction, which has been attended with satisfactory success in Europe, will, it is confidently believed, secure all the advantages claimed for it by the memorialists, who have a practical knowledge of the building and operating lines of telegraph; being connected with the management of some of the best regulated telegraph companies in the country. The bill provides for two lines of wire, which will insure the transaction of a larger amount of business, and a degree of certainty and reliability to the government and the citizen in the transmission of despatches,

which might, for obvious reasons, be sometimes interrupted if the dependence was upon but one line of wire.

A subterranean line of two wires, such as the bill provides for, is estimated to cost eleven hundred and fifty dollars per mile. Calling the distance twenty-four hundred miles, the entire cost of the line, including the buildings necessary at the working stations, together with incidental expenses to be incurred in its construction, such as explorations and engineering, land transportation of materials, cost of supplies, and erection of forts to protect way stations, would be not less than two million seven hundred and sixty thousand dollars. The annual cost of operating the line is estimated at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Fifty operators will be necessary, and a force of two hundred and fifty other men will be required, constantly in the work of repairing and protecting the line. These men will be posted in small parties at the different working stations. It is proposed to have a double set of operators, so that the line may be worked by night as well as by day.

The value of the lands located along and near the telegraph line, if estimated as the government valued its bounty lands given to its soldiers in the Mexican war, when it commuted with them, giving one hundred dollars in scrip, or one hundred and sixty acres of land, would be only at the rate of sixty-two and a half cents per acre. Valuing the proposed grant of two millions of acres at the same rate, it would be worth twelve hundred and fifty thousand dollars, considerably less than one-half the estimated cost of the line. It should be remembered that the bill confines the grant to the Territories, while those soldiers had the right of locating in both Territories and States. It is thought, therefore, that the sum of twelve hundred and fifty thousand dollars is a fair valuation of their worth, if estimated as aid in the construction of the line. These lands are so far remote that it must be years before they can become of value to the government. No person could afford to purchase them at the government price of one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, and retain them until they became marketable; he never would realize the cost and interest. The value to the government of the privilege of transmitting without charge eight thousand words per month is, at the rates named in the bill, equal to a yearly interest account of one hundred thousand dollars, a sum equivalent to an annual interest at eight per centum on the value of two millions of acres of land according to the foregoing estimate. In addition to this privilege, the government is to have the prior use of the line for all its business, without restriction, at rates to be established by itself.

The principle so frequently regarded of selecting alternate sections where grants have been made by the government, in aid of great works of public importance, is incorporated into this bill.

It may be inquired why the government is asked to aid in this enterprise? The answer is clear, and, we think, satisfactory. Telegraphic lines are of recent origin, and the profits of their business uncertain. As an investment, they have not yet acquired that favor with the public which will induce the capitalist to take stock in a line like the proposed, running thousands of miles through a savage country. It is believed that the numerous telegraphic lines put in operation in this

country, exceeding in their aggregate length the united lines of all other countries, have not, on the whole, been a profitable investment to those interested. This project does not hold out sufficient grounds for success as a profitable investment, to induce subscriptions, without government encouragement. Without that assistance, it is not to be expected that a telegraph line, as an independent measure, can, for years io come, be carried through with reasonable hopes of remuneration for the outlay of capital which would be required. A grant of land under the conditions named, will give to the enterprise a degree of confidence in the public estimation which cannot otherwise be created. It will give those engaged in it a credit and responsibility which will enable them to command means at once to carry on the work to an early completion, and overcome a great many obstacles which would be fatal to its success, if confined strictly to the efforts of private enterprise alone.

The aid of the government is invoked. Can it be granted with safety and security to the public interests? It is evident that it can. It is provided in the bill that no lands can be selected until after the completion of the line, and the free use of it tendered to the government. This condition is ample security. Again, it is provided that the line becomes forfeited to the government, in case of neglect on the part of the memorialists to operate it for a period of six months after its completion. The proposed grant in aid of the undertaking is not a gift of a portion of the public lands, but such a disposition of them as will confer great and lasting advantages to the citizen and the government. Looking at it in a pecuniary point of view, it is an investment by the government, upon which it will annually receive, in the transmission of its various orders, civil, military, and naval, a consideration of eight per centum on the value of the lands appropriated. This privilege, together with the “further prior use, to any extent within the capacity of the line, at such rates of compensation for messages transmitted as Congress may by law provide,” are not of a temporary character; they are perpetual. The risk, labor, and responsibility, are all upon the side of the memorialists. The government incurs no expense in the construction of the line; in a word, it hazards nothing.

The committee report back the Senate bill with amendments, with a recommendation that they be adopted, and that the bill, thus amended,

.

do pass.

In SENATE—February 8, 1853.

The Committee on Territories, to whom was referred the memorial of Hiram

0. Alden and James Eddy, asking for the right of way for a telegraph to the Pucific, and a grant of land in aid of the construction of such telegraph, having considered the same, beg leave to report:

The memorialists are practically acquainted with the construction and working of telegraphs, having built one of the most permanent and efficient lines in the country-one of them being president, and the

other superintendent, of the line. Inquiries satisfactorily answered have established the competency of these persons to build and manage a line to the Pacific, should Congress deem it expedient that such a line should be constructed under national auspices.

The telegraph which the memorialists propose to build is to be subterranean, made of imperishable materials, and perfectly insulated. A line on poles, in the ordinary manner, is, for the tract of country over which it is proposed to build, simply useless. Atmospheric electricity, fires on the prairie, the thunder-storms among the mountains, berds of buffalo, the necessities of the emigrant, are considerations sufficient to establish that the working of a line in the air would be impracticable. Subterranean telegraphs, tried with indifferent success in this country, have been found to work well abroad. Long lines in the kingdom of Prussia, especially, 'attest the practicability and superior working capacity of the subterranean telegraph.

As to a grant of land along the line of the telegraph, your committee are decidedly disposed to recommend it. The land is worth nothing now to the government, but doubtless will be of value in the hands of these memorialists and their associates when the line shall have been built. Your committee are advised, in regard to telegraph enterprises in this country, that they are by no means certain paying investments. They understand that on the stock of some of the most important lines in the country no dividend is paid. On the other hand, other lines pay a handsome dividend. Some lines are valueless. Many of them have been dead failures, and the lines have been taken down. Such being the character of telegraph stock, it will be seen that the request of these memorialists for a grani of land by which they may call capital to their aid, considering the national character of the work, is by no means unreasonable; and your committee do not hesitate to recommend such an appropriation, with the best conditions which are wont to be annexed to such grants.

The advantages of this telegraph to the government, the convenience and facility it will give them in communicating with their officers on the Pacific coast and in the intervening territories, cannot well be overestimated. Orders from the War, Navy, Treasury, Interior, and Post Office Departments would be found going over this line, to the great advantage of the several services. Accidents in California-demonstrations which, before we hear from them, have hardened into history—could be arrested or prevented by the aid of the telegraph. The movements of hostile Indian tribes and of our troops could be daily known at the War Department. Should a national vessel cast anchor in the harbor of San Francisco, her arrival would be known at the department here almost as soon as a boat from her could reach the shore. By the facilities this line furnishes for giving orders from the departments, the great delays now experienced, and the necessity of special messengers, would be avoided.

In the coast survey, which is already begun on the Pacific side, the telegraph is invaluable. The speed and accuracy by which the longitude can be determined, has made it, for the uses of the survey, almost indispensable. We state, on information furnished by intelligent officers connected with the survey, that the observations of one night

with the telegraph are worth more than a month's work without its aid.

Such being the return given to the government for that which is now of no value to them, it will be seen that the rights to land which the accompanying bill proposes to confer scarce wear the character of a grant.

But it is to the people of the republic, from one end of it to the other, that a telegraph to the Pacific is eminently desirable and advantageous. The amount of American shipping, engaged in the whale-fishery and in general commerce, now in the Pacific, is vast, and would largely exceed the estimate which any person, without consulting authentic data, would be inclined io form. Few, however, but know that San Francisco has already become one of the most important commercial places on this continent; and few but have looked forward to the time when a large Asiatic traffic shall find its depot there. None except commercial inen who have used the telegraph know its value in commercial business. But its advantages between the great cities of the Atlantic border are dwarfed by the facilities of travel : the locomotive runs by its side, and in eighteen hours the passenger from Washington who bas telegraphed his starting for Boston overtakes his message. But in the line proposed, the telegraph spans a continent in an instant of time, and leaves the traveller, in the present facilities of conveyance, a month behind. The merchant at San Francisco might order his goods an hour before the sailing of the steamer from New York. In fact, if he consulted only the dial in his own counting-room, he could send his order two hours after the New York time fixed for her sailing. The telegraph, too, would equalize the markets of the Pacific with those of the Atlantic, and the excessive fluctuations now experienced in the prices of the necessities of life in California would disappear.

But it is in its social bearing that the advantages of a telegraph to the Pacific will be most strikingly seen. Every hamlet, it might almost be said every home, in thirty States of the Union, has its representative on the Pacific shore. By the aid of a telegraph they would be in immediate communication with each other. Every message, whether of joy or sorrow, could be instantly transmitted either way; and sons and fathers, wives and mothers, whose relations are now a thousand miles asunder, would be, for the purposes of the interchange of intelligence, as it were, under the same roof. It is found in telegraphs on this side of the Mississippi that the affairs of social life make up the contents of the larger part of the communications. The same feature will be at least as largely developed in the case of a telegraph to the Pacific.

Your committee, in view of the foregoing, beg leave to report the accompanying bill.

« AnteriorContinua »